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TQM – Total Quality Management – Definition, Principles & Importance

Updated on :  

08 min read.

In order to understand “Total quality management”, first we have to understand what does ‘Quality’ actually mean?

‘Quality’ is generally referred to a parameter which decides the inferiority or superiority of a product or service. It is a measure of goodness to understand how a product meets its specifications. Usually, when the expression “quality” is used, we think in the terms of an excellent product or service that meets or even exceeds our expectations. These expectations are based on the price and the intended use of the goods or services. In simple words, when a product or service exceeds our expectations we consider it to be of good quality. Therefore, it is somewhat of an intangible expression based upon perception.

W. Edwards Deming, Armand V. Feigenbaum and Joseph M. Juran jointly developed the concept of TQM. Initially, TQM originated in the manufacturing sector but it can be applied to all organizations.

The concept of TQM states that every employee works towards the improvement of work culture, services, systems, processes and so on to ensure a continuing success of the organization.

TQM is a management approach for an organization, depending upon the participation of all its members (including its employees) and aiming for long-term success through customer satisfaction. This approach is beneficial to all members of the organization and to the society as well.

Definition of TQM

Total Quality Management is defined as a customer-oriented process and aims for continuous improvement of business operations. It ensures that all allied works (particularly work of employees) are toward the common goals of improving product quality or service quality, as well as enhancing the production process or process of rendering of services. However, the emphasis is put on fact-based decision making, with the use of performance metrics to monitor progress.

The key principles of Total Quality Management

Commitment from the management

  • Plan (drive, direct)
  • Do (deploy, support, and participate)
  • Check (review)
  • Act (recognize, communicate, revise)

Employee Empowerment

  • Training
  • Excellence team
  • Measurement and recognition
  • Suggestion scheme

Continuous Improvement

  • Systematic measurement
  • Excellence teams
  • Cross-functional process management
  • Attain, maintain, improve standards

Customer Focus

  • Partnership with Suppliers
  • Service relationship with internal customers
  • Customer-driven standards
  • Never compromise quality

Process Oriented

  • Thinking about the process
  • Handling of the process
  • Processes which are result oriented

Decision Making Based on Facts Only and Not on Opinions

  • Integrated, strategic and systematic approach to ensure the entire organisation is aligned
  • Communication must be open and at all levels of the organisation.

Benefits of Total Quality Management

The benefits arising from the implementation of a Total Quality Management in an organization are:

  • This will increase the awareness of quality culture within the organization.
  • A special emphasis on teamwork will be achieved.
  • TQM will lead to a commitment towards continuous improvement.

Essential requirements for successful implementation of TQM

  • Commitment: Quality improvement (in all aspects) must be everyones’ job in the organization. An apparent commitment from the top management, breaking down the barriers for continuous quality improvement and steps required to provide an environment for changing attitudes must be provided. Training and support for this should be extended.
  • Culture: There should be proper training to effect the changes in attitude and culture.
  • Continuous Improvement: Recognize improvement as a continuous process, and not merely a one-off program.
  • Customer Focus: Perfection in service with zero defects and full satisfaction to the end-user whether it’s internal or external.
  • Control: Ensure monitoring and control checks for any deviation from the intended course of implementation.
    • Plan
    • Do
    • Check
    • Act

This is also referred to as the PDCA cycle.

  • Planning Phase: This phase is the most crucial phase of total quality management. Under this phase, employees have to come up with their respective queries and problems which need to be addressed. The employees apprise the management of different challenges which they are facing in their day to day operations and also analyze the root cause of the problem. They need to do the required research and collect significant data which would help them find solutions to all the problems.
  • Doing Phase: In this phase, a solution for the identified problems in the planning phase is developed by the employees. Strategies are devised and implemented to crack down the challenges faced by employees. The efficiency and effectiveness of solutions and strategies are also evaluated in this stage.
  • Checking Phase: Under this phase, a comparison analysis of before and after is done in order to assess the effectiveness of the processes and measure the results.
  • Acting Phase: This is the last phase of the cycle, in this phase employees document their results and prepare themselves to address other problems

Beliefs about Total Quality Management

Following are the universal Total Quality Management beliefs:

  • Satisfaction of the customer/owner is the measure of quality.
  • Everyone is an owner.
  • Continuous Quality improvement must be there.
  • Analysis of the processes is the key to quality improvement.
  • Constant TQM is not possible without consistent, active and enabling leadership by managers at all levels.
  • It is important to incessantly improve the quality of the products and services which we are supposed to provide to our customers/owners.


A successful TQM implementation requires a significant training for the employees involved in it. Since the training program can take employees away from their day to day work, this eventually can have a negative short-term impact. Also, since Total Quality Management tends to result in a consistent series of incremental changes, it can lead to creating an unpleasant response from those employees who prefer the existing system, or employees who are afraid of losing their jobs because of it.
Total Quality Management works best in an environment where there is strong support and commitment from the management.

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